I’ve been watching AC Milan for many years now. One of my fondest memories of the club is the triumph of the Champions League in 2007, when Milan defeated Celtic, Bayern Munich, and Manchester United in the knockout stage, en route to a 2-1 victory over Liverpool in Athens to lift the cup for a seventh time.
What a team that was. There were stars the likes of which have rarely been assembled together before. Nesta and Maldini held down the rock solid back line. Ahead of them, Seedorf, Pirlo, and Gattuso were shining stars in the midfield. On offense, the tremendous playmaker Kaka was able to slide a cheeky ball through the Liverpool defense to the foot of Filippo Inzaghi, Mr. 300, one of the greatest poachers of the goal of all-time. This same team went on to easily win the Club World Cup in Japan seven months later. It would be the last trophy for the Rossoneri to this day.
Milan has failed to advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League since 2007 and was forced to play in the UEFA Cup in 2008-2009. They have not finished above third in the Italian Serie A. Meanwhile, they’ve been forced to watch their city rivals, Inter Milan, lift the Scudetto five times in a row, only the second team to accomplish the feat and the first since Juventus from 1931 to 1935. The world is in shock that a team like Milan could fall off so horribly during such a short span, but the problem is very apparent.
Silvio Berlusconi, Milan’s owner and the Prime Minister of Italy, has some crazy idea that players whom were good in their prime several years ago are a better option than having to spend money for quality players in the prime of their careers when one wants to rebuild a team.
Silvio, I will give you credit. As you have so modestly said, you did build Milan. Under your ownership, Milan has won several titles in both Italy and the Champions League, but most of that success came in the nineties and early twenty-first century. This team is going nowhere.
Players are only getting older and closer to retirement. Short-term fixes, such as signing Mario Yepes, will not benefit Milan down the road, nor will this midfield by committee with the likes of Pirlo, Seedorf, Gattuso, and Ambrossini, praying that three of the four are healthy every week. Nothing against these midfielders, they have done a great job for Milan in the past and I thank them greatly, but change is needed. If you don’t want to make it, sell the team to someone who will.
I don’t have millions of dollars; I’m just a middle-class student from the United States. If I had that money however, you could expect change.
The Milan faithful need a leader who is ready to act, no matter what it may cost. Therefore, day one in office, immediately Gennaro Gattuso and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar are immediately put up for sale. Tottenham are ready to dish out the money for Huntelaar. Why keep him when he has done so little for Milan?
His only spark of class was against Catania with two stoppage time goals. Gattuso did nothing this year and he’s a ticking time bomb. Not only did he get severely injured against Inter Milan the second game of the season, he was red carded, as he was about to come off! Milan is too quick to keep him despite the Dubai rumors.
Milan’s problem is undoubtedly the midfield. That line is too old to compete with Inter, Roma, Palermo, and other teams that are on their way up the Serie A ladder, as Milan gets weaker. Milan has the perfect opportunity at the moment. Reports have linked them to both Keisuke Honda and Clint Dempsey, two very skilled, lively midfielders who have the ability to last a full season and put the ball in the net. In the 4-3-1-2 formation last season, Milan was most notably too tired in the midfield. Even if they do nothing else, Honda and Dempsey playing on either side of Pirlo, yes Pirlo, not Ambrossini, who should be on the bench while Pirlo wears the armband, would be a large boost to the club.
Milan’s defense appears to be in good position for the future. Nesta will be completely healthy this season, as he has healed from his back injury. Along with understudy Thiago Silva in the middle of defense, as well as backup Oguchi Onyewu, Milan has no worries in the middle. Luca Antonini seems to be the left back of the future, for club and country. Gianluca Zambrotta is still solid but close to the end of the road.
A failed attempt to get Aly Cissokho last season has left Milan with only Ignazio Abate, a midfielder turned defender, as backup. His inconsistency has troubled Milan all season long. Unless Abate improves, Milan’s only options are to search for a new outside back, maybe the likes of American Carlos Bocanegra, who has proved very productive at French side Rennes, or one of two inside options: either moving Flamini to right back or moving Silva out there and putting Onyewu in the middle alongside Nesta.
In the goal, I think I would have approached the acquiring of Marco Amelia differently. A loan lasts a year. Unless we can sign him at the end of the year, we will need to begin looking for a permanent keeper.
In order to fund spending, Milan needs to be willing to part with some big names. As the owner of a prestigious club, I would be willing to do so. Gattuso and Huntelaar would be first to go, but that likely will not be enough to fund the change needed, meaning bringing in the likes of Dempsey and Honda to start. At forward, Pato is the future. That is certain. Inzaghi can still put in a goal or two off the bench. However his retirement countdown is likely down to months, not years. As I’ve said, I would get rid of Huntelaar.
Borriello, at 28, still has a few years left, but the scoring attack was not first class last season. Mancini was brought in on loan but failed to do anything for the club. A new, young, lively striker is needed. Milan has expressed interest in Eder, a Brazilian forward who scored twenty-six goals in thirty-nine games at Empoli last season. The young twenty-three year old is ideal for Milan. A great scorer up front along with Borriello and fellow Brazilian Pato could make Milan a deadly force offensively. Of course, the front line I mentioned did not mention Ronaldinho.
If necessary, Ronaldinho would bring in quite a bit of money from a club like Manchester City or fellow courters Olympiakos. Though leading the team in overall goals last season, his performance fluctuated over the past two seasons. Ronaldinho is not the same player he was when he was world player of the year in 2005 and 2006. Losing Ronaldinho would not be the worst loss ever.
Milan, in the past few years, have seemed to live by names, not performances and quality. Changes are needed. Berlusconi needs to lead this change. Otherwise, he should sell the team to someone who will, simple as that. Out with the idea of retrenchment and holding on to the past. To be successful now and in the future, it is necessary to acquire new talent. If given the option, I would sell and buy six players. I would sell Gattuso, Huntelaar, and Ronaldinho and buy Dempsey, Honda, and Eder. At that point, the Milan 4-3-1-2 should look something like this:
Defenders (l-r): Antonini, Nesta, Silva, Zambrotta
Midfielder (l-r): Honda, Pirlo, Dempsey
Center Forward: Borriello
Strikers (l-r): Eder, Pato
If we are to be able to believe in this club, changes must be made. If not these changes, than other, productive moves must be made.